HBO programming chief Casey Bloys said in July hit series Game of Thrones looked to debut its eighth and final season in "the first half" of 2019, but new comments from visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer suggest the series won't return until late May or June 2019 at the earliest.
Shows hoping to compete in the 2019 Emmy Awards must air their series between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019. If HBO wants the 38-time Emmy Award-winning series to be considered for television's biggest awards in the next Emmys, the series would have to debut before the end of May.
"In two years we'll be eligible for the Season 8 work, which we're just beginning now," Bauer told Huffington Post, claiming the six-episode final season will reach the small screen sometime after May 31, 2019, making it eligible for the 2020 Emmys.
"We're going to be toiling away on Season 8 until May of 2019, so it's eight or nine months away," Bauer said. "But the prequel is starting to shoot in February, at least the pilot. So we'll still have quite a lot to do on Season 8 when they're beginning."
Bauer, himself a five-time Emmy winner, has nothing but Game of Thrones on his plate until next May.
"So much of it comes down to timing and all that stuff. The situation changes every week," he said. "I know I'm not doing anything else but Thrones until May of next year."
A representative for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences told HuffPost exceptions are sometimes made for "hanging episodes" aired after the May 31 cut-off date.
"If an ongoing series has enough episodes (six or more) in the current eligibility year to qualify as a series, but has one or more episodes, including the season/series finale, airing after May 31, those 'hanging episodes' that are part of the season's contiguous rollout on the same distribution platform will join the six or more eligible episodes of the series, as long as the hanging episodes air prior to the first-round voting deadline," the rep said.
Game of Thrones' 2020 Emmys eligibility and Bauer's VFX team working into May points to late May 2019 as the earliest possible release date. HBO previously debuted season 7 in July 2017.